Soon your favorite Target store may be sprouting something new: leafy green vegetables, potatoes, beetroot, and zucchini. Target’s Food + Future CoLab (a collaboration among Target, the MIT Media Lab, and Ideo) has adopted, as its mission, the solution to food-related challenges. One of its newest initiatives is to bring vertical farms into Target’s retail stores. As early as spring 2017, Target will begin to use making use of artificial lights and climatized conditions to grow fresh produce and sell it directly to hungry consumers.

The move represents a response to several broader trends, including rapidly increasing urban populations. Furthermore, farming as a profession has been in decline nationwide,, and an average age of the typical U.S. farmer is 58 years—close to a retirement age. Thus, a marriage between retail and farming may just be what is needed to ensure produce remains affordable and available.

In addition, vertical farming is an appealing and viable option for retail stores because it uses less water and takes up less space than traditional farming methods. The vegetables can be grown without pesticides, which helps address consumers’ increased demands for organic products. As an additional benefit, vertical farms in retail stores will allow the produce to be grown closer to the consumer, which will eliminate the need for shipping and packaging, as well as the risk of spoilage during transportation. Finally, the store’s consistent lighting and climate conditions can remove weather or pests as factors that often keep traditional farmers from growing healthy crops.

Discussion Question:

  1. What is vertical farming?
  2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of vertical farming from Target’s perspective? From its customers’ perspective?

Source: Tom Ryan, Retail Wire, October 14, 2016